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Canine To Five

3443 Cass Ave.
Detroit, Michigan 48201

Liz Blondy

By Tunde Wey
October 30, 2012

The Cass Corridor is an infamous stretch of street best known for its own myth. It has become the personification of Detroit's grit, previously swimming in illicit activities – dive bars and questionable characters flitting from one crumbling building to the next in the dark of the night to the soundtrack of distant sirens and feral barking. This hardscrabble allure is slowly being upended by the new realities of Midtown, Detroit's densely populated and affluent neighborhood of artisan coffee shops, gourmet restaurants and grocery stores, trendy bars, organic bakeries, and a refined, culturally-conscious attitude to accompany them.
In Midtown, in this now inevitable cascade of development, you can find Canine To Five, a pet care facility located on Cass Avenue offering dog day care, grooming, and cage-free attended overnight boarding. Canine To Five, with its colorful façade, embodies the future of Midtown while still literally moored to the Cass Corridor of yore.  Canine To Five is owned and operated by Liz Blondy.
"It's the longest I have ever had a job," Blondy says. "We have lived in our house for six years, which is the longest I have ever lived in one place. I have been with [fiancé] Pat for 14 years, the longest I have ever dated anyone. There is more continuity in my life than there has ever been."
If continuity is a steady march of incremental improvement, then Blondy is experiencing a continuity boom. In the cold of December, when Blondy turns 38, she will have lived in Detroit for 33 years, spending the last seven of these building one of the city's more successful small businesses.
Blondy's Canine To Five welcomes between 60 to 80 dogs every day, seven days a week through its daycare services. Each
The lesson in Blondy's story might be that opportunity is only available to those who can see it and only valuable to those who seize it.
week between 120 and 160 dogs are groomed here, and on any given night between 10 and 40 dogs enjoy premium boarding services.
To quantify the impact of Blondy's business more contextually, Canine To Five is on pace to bring in $650,000 in revenue this year – a result of a 20 percent sustained growth rate since the business opened in May 2005. There is also horizontal growth; at the close of this year Blondy will be opening up a new Canine To Five location in Ferndale, another testament to her continued success.
Blondy is plain spoken, with a frankness that cuts immediately to the heart of a matter. Her direct approach is supplemented by a practicality wholly necessary to meet the meticulous matters of running a business. These qualities that have aided her success in running a business have also allowed her to identify the right opportunities.
While having drinks at a local bar with some friends, Blondy's interest was piqued when one of them mentioned that they used a dog daycare facility in Farmington Hills to board their pet. While she had never heard of a dog daycare prior to that conversation, what caught her attention was the apparent void of such services in the downtown Detroit area. This was in November 2003 and by December, just one month later, Blondy was convinced she would open a dog daycare business.
As a first-time business owner, the process of moving her idea from concept to execution was an agglomeration of small yet important steps.
Blondy says, "I didn't know anything about dogs and I had to become experienced in dog behavior." She began volunteering at the Michigan Humane Society as well as a dog daycare center. She also started researching how to run a business. But her most important effort in starting her business was enlisting the assistance of small business experts.

"I feel like when I was first opening there were a lot of people that gave me a lot of really good advice and took the time to mentor me – very selflessly on their part. I learned more from people than from any book, class or seminar. I still learn from people. Open City was a way to connect existing small business owners to aspiring small business owners."
Open City, a small business speaker series-cum-support group which Blondy and other Detroit-based independent merchants started in 2007, continues to flourish, animated by Blondy's complementary ethos of cooperation and collaboration.
Blondy's idea has grown from a bar conversation into a valuable business employing 24 people and garnering the respect and investment of local institutions. At her start she remortgaged her home and procured her first credit card to finance Canine To Five, but now she is able to secure substantial loans for her latest endeavors, most recently securing a loan in two rounds totaling $110,000 from Invest Detroit to expand her Midtown location. This goodwill and trust from her peers reflect the seriousness of purpose she administers in running her business.
While she has been the beneficiary of favorable consumer spending and demographic developments – pet spending increased during the recession and just about half of Canine To Five's daycare business comes from workers who commute into the central business district, Blondy's chief asset is her incredible business acumen. The lesson in Blondy's story might be that opportunity is only available to those who can see it and only valuable to those who seize it.
In starting a business in a neighborhood that was slowly emptying and betting her fortune on a luxury pet service in a location that might have been the least luxurious part of town, Blondy saw and seized opportunity. Now, seven years later, there can be no doubt in anyone's minds that she was right.

Photograph by Marvin Shaouni Photography.

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Related Resources

  • Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center
    The Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center enhances Michigan's economic well-being by providing counseling, training, research and advocacy for new ventures, existing small businesses and innovative technology companies.  
  • Midtown Detroit Inc.
    Midtown Detroit Inc. was created to help guide development, enhance public awareness, encourage reinvestment, and celebrate the cultural aspects of the Midtown Detroit district. 
  • Open City
    Open City is a forum for aspiring and current business owners to exchange ideas and information about doing business in the city. Dreaming of starting a new business? Looking to grow your existing business?